Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fix Me

The other day I was watching Oprah and she had guests on that I identified with more than any others she's ever had on her show. They were talking about hording (which I only slightly identified with) and the causes. It turns out perfectionism is to blame. When the women began talking about how they feel when symptoms show themselves I was agast. It was me to a "T." How many years have people been telling me, "don't be so hard on yourself" and such? I had to investigate further - I didn't want to be jumping on any bandwaggons. What I found was incredible. I really think this is the reason for my depression, as well as my general and social anxiety issues.

I was searching the web for perfectionism related information and I came across a great website. Everything said there is exactly how I'm feeling. I'm beginning to wonder if my depressions and anxiety are caused by my desires for perfection?

Another site I found mentioned that perfectionism can bring about depression, performance anxiety, social anxiety, writer's block, obsessive behaviors, compulsiveness, loneliness, frustration and impatience. The site goes on to show some myths about perfectionism like:

MYTH 1: Perfectionists get things done and they do things right.
REALITY: Perfectionists often have problems with procrastination, missed deadlines, and low productivity. Psychologists find that perfectionists tend to be "all-or-nothing" thinkers. They see events and experiences as either good or bad, perfect or imperfect, with nothing in between. Such thinking often leads to procrastination, because a requirement of flawless perfection, in even the smallest of tasks, can become fearfully overwhelming.
Think of my problems with school... I face a paper or small assignment and I go blank and freak out. Also, how long has it been since I began "cleaning out?" It shouldn't take this long, but 95% of the times that I try I end up just staring at the junk that needs to go.

MYTH 2: Perfectionists just have this enormous desire to please others and to be the very best they can.
REALITY: Perfectionistic tendencies often begin as an attempt to win love, acceptance, and approval. Perfectionists are driven by low self-esteem, so their own needs ultimately blind them to the needs and wishes of others. Indeed, their compulsiveness may lead others to beg for a change that the perfectionist cannot or will not make. Perfectionism is more likely to complicate than enhance one's relationships.
I've complained about never being "good enough" in my mother's eyes. I'm sure this is the reason.

It also gave an interesting little story...
The South Indian Monkey Trap: A Parable

One of the characteristics of perfectionists is their "value rigidity." They refuse to let go of particular ideas, even in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. Here is a fable illustrating the pitfalls of value rigidity, adapted from Robert Pirsig's well-known work, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The "South Indian Monkey Trap" was developed by villagers to catch the ever-present and numerous small monkeys in that part of the world. It involves a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has
some rice inside which can be seen through a small hole. The hole is just big enough so that the monkey can put his hand in, but too small for his fist to come out after he has grabbed the rice.

Tempted by the rice, the monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped. He is not able to see that it is his own fist that traps him, his own desire for the rice. He rigidly holds on to the rice, because he values it. He cannot let go and by doing so retain his freedom. So the trap works and the villagers capture him.

Perfectionists need to rethink their own values and decide whether they are going to continue to be trapped by these values or free themselves.

After all this they gave a list of books that can help. Once I get some cash on me I'm going to get one of them. Imagine, all these years I thought I was just useless but it was just this. I feel better knowing what it is, especially because I can work towards being able to cope with it.

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